By Anne Cosgrove
From the October 2019 Issue
What is a circular economy? If you’ve heard this term, you may have asked yourself this question. “A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems,” according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an organization launched in 2010 to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Since its creation, the Foundation has emerged as a global thought leader, establishing the circular economy on the agenda of decision-makers across business, government, and academia.
As stated on the Foundation website: “Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital.” And according to the Foundation, this is based on three principles:
- Design out waste and pollution
- Keep products and materials in use
- Regenerate natural systems
As the Foundation states on its website: “The circular economy concept has deep-rooted origins and cannot be traced back to one single date or author. Its practical applications to modern economic systems and industrial processes, however, have gained momentum since the late 1970s, led by a small number of academics, thought-leaders and businesses.”
Facility management professionals will see relevant concepts in some of the circular design philosophies. These include Cradle to Cradle; Performance Economy; Biomimicry; Industrial Ecology; Natural Capitalism; Blue Economy; and Regenerative Design.
Among the design strategies discussed around circular design, which contributes to the circular economy is: “Extending the life of a product allows it to remain in use for as long as possible, one of the three core principles of circular economy. This may involve designing products to be both physically and emotionally durable or it may require innovative approaches that allow the product to adapt to a user’s changing needs as time passes.”
Facility professionals may relate to this strategy as it speaks to the reuse of materials and products—preventing items from entering landfill, for instance. From office furniture to lighting and from carpet to office supplies, buildings contain myriad items that are candidates for circular design.
Founded in May 2017, and partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), REMADE is a Manufacturing USA® Institute. In partnership with industry, academia and national labs, the REMADE Institute located in West Henrietta, NY strives to enable early-stage applied research and development of technologies that could dramatically reduce the embodied energy and carbon emissions associated with industrial-scale materials production and processing.
The Institute leverages up to $70 million in federal funding that will be matched by $70 million in private cost-share commitments from industry, consortium members and partners.
Though not limited to the building industry, REMADE membership includes Caterpillar, Davies Office, First Solar, John Deere, Kohler, Shaw Floors, and Waste Management. The Institute members also include a number of trade associations, nonprofits, and affiliates. These are joined by a number of universities and five national laboratories.
By focusing efforts on addressing knowledge gaps that will eliminate and/or mitigate the technical and economic barriers that prevent greater material recycling, recovery, remanufacturing and reuse, The REMADE Institute seeks to motivate the subsequent industry investments required to advance technology development that will support the U.S. manufacturing eco-system.
Facility professionals have the power to further the circular economy, and options are growing to discover new choices.
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